Ask Kim


Fallout From a Government Shutdown

Kimberly Lankford

Social Security, Medicare, and military and veterans’ health benefits will keep flowing, but you’ll want to cancel any plans to visit national parks.



What will happen to my Medicare and Social Security benefits if the government shuts down?

SEE ALSO: 10 Things You Must Know About Social Security

Social Security retirement and disability benefits won’t be affected. Those benefits are paid by trust funds that are not funded annually by Congress. Medicare claims processing and benefits will also continue uninterrupted, at least for the short term. And applications for Social Security benefits will still be processed.

But Social Security earnings corrections and benefits verifications will be temporarily discontinued during a shutdown. And the government will not be able to issue original or replacement Social Security or Medicare cards. The Social Security Office of Disability and Adjudicative Review will continue hearing and deciding cases, but service will be limited, and it will not be able to schedule new cases during a shutdown.

A shutdown won’t derail military and veterans’ health benefits. Tricare military health benefits and Veterans Administration benefits will still be processed, and VA medical centers will continue to operate. Veterans' disability compensation, pension and education benefits could be affected, however, if a shutdown were to last beyond late October. The VA National Call Center will continue operating, although the VA’s national phone numbers for consumer affairs, billing issues and a few other services will be temporarily suspended. The Board of Veterans Appeals will not issue any decisions on claims appeals. (The Veterans Administration has a helpful Field Guide to Government Shutdown with details about what VA services will and will not be available.)

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Ironically -- because funding for the new health care law is the primary issue behind congressional squabbling -- a shutdown would not delay the October 1 start date for enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces. That’s because the marketplaces use funds not affected by the annual budget (see Get Ready for Obamacare).

And don’t plan to visit any national parks during a shutdown; they’ll all be closed. Guests staying in National Park Service hotels and campgrounds will be given 48 hours to leave the parks.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.



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